Children come into this world helpless and crying. The goal of parenting is helping our kids gain independence and regulate their emotions. It's a long, bumpy path. Toddlers and preschoolers are known for throwing epic temper tantrums, usually in inconvenient, embarrassing places. If you're avoiding taking your child out in public, know that you can often prevent tantrums in public, or if your preventions don't pan out, you can cope with a meltdown at the market.
An ounce of prevention
The best way to deal with public temper tantrums is to avoid them in the first place. Children are creatures of habit, and disrupting the routine can result in disaster. If you haven't already, set up a predictable routine with your young child. Kids who have regular eating and sleeping times are more able to deal with emotional frustration. Once you have a routine, treat mealtimes, nap times, and bedtime as sacred. If you choose to take a toddler to the grocery store during nap time, prepare yourself for a battle.
Also, young kids take promises seriously, and they respond strongly when they feel the world isn't fair. If you promise to take your child somewhere fun and then go back on your word, be ready for a tantrum. Watch what you promise your child, and give yourself an out before you agree to do something.
Finally, toddlers and preschoolers are much more sensitive to crowds, light and noise than adults. What might seem like a fun trip to the mall for you will bring out the little terror in an overstimulated toddler. Plan errands during quiet times when you can.
The possible cure
Even with the best planning, outings can sometimes go horribly awry. There are obligations that you can't get out of and last-minute errands you have to run, regardless of how your young child is feeling. If you find yourself faced with a public tantrum, stay calm. You set the emotional tone for interactions with your kids. If you flip out, so will she.
As hard as it is, now is not the time to back down. Young kids are super smart, and the second you give into a tantrum she will learn that the yelling and screaming works. Unless you want a meltdown every time you go out, you have to calmly stand your ground. Try not to bribe your children or reward them with treats when they exhibit bad behavior.
During a tantrum, ignore the adults around you. Their reaction is not your concern; you have parenting to do. Take your child to a quiet corner, get down on his level, and calmly explain that you expect him to quit crying immediately. Use an authoritative voice and look him directly in the eye. Be loving, but let him see clearly that you're in charge. Be mostly quiet, and don't resort to lecturing. Let the tantrum wind itself down naturally.
If that doesn't stop the tantrum after a few minutes, it's time to leave. You are not the first person in history to leave a cart full of groceries in the aisle or walk away from a play date with a screaming kid. You'll get many more chances to try again. Once you get home, talk about acceptable public behavior with your child, and role play how the situation should have gone.
Don't feel guilty for your child's bad behavior. We've all been there! It takes a strong parent to deal with a tantrum while staying calm and in control. It may take some practice to get the hang of dealing with tantrums, but your consistency will teach your child emotional regulation. Eventually, your sense of composure will rub off on your children, and going out will be fun for everyone.